We returned to the bargaining table with NYU’s representatives for the third session of our impact bargaining, and the first session of bargaining for our new contract. Check out our previous post to be up-to-date on the status of impact bargaining prior to this session.Thank you to all the observers who came to the sessions! Your presence is important in making our bargaining process democratic. Your faces in the room show NYU’s bargaining representatives they will have to be accountable to graduate workers.
We started the bargaining session by following up on the information requests from last session and added two additional requests to the list.
Requests we placed last session:
- Hiring freeze:
- The exact parameters on the current hiring freeze, and its relation to Summer and Fall semester hires. We want to know more about NYU’s ability (or lack thereof) to hire different categories of grad workers.
- Emergency grants:
- What are the exact parameters within which emergency grants are operating? Why have so many people been refused who are in clear need?
- NYU-NYPD ties:
- Clarification from NYU on their ties to the NYPD, why the NYPD are allowed on campus, particularly when unmasked. We also want to know about funds exchanged between NYU and the NYPD
- Does NYU have any COVID contingency plans? What if COVID spreads in the dorms, for example? How will the University handle a potential second shelter-in-place order from the city?
- Is NYU refusing employment in the fall to those who are outside of NYC or the US? Are there schools or departments that will deny employment to graduate students if they are outside the US during the fall?
NYU responded to only one of these requests, specifically the hiring freeze. They told us there has been no hiring freeze, and fluctuations in numbers of hires are to be generally expected.
This is patently untrue. We have evidence that the size of our bargaining unit this summer has been reduced by around 50% compared to Summer 2019, a number that cannot be interpreted as “fluctuations”.
In addition, we received a memo this past May describing the changes to the hiring procedure which amount to at least a partial hiring freeze.
After this was pointed out, NYU declined to respond.
Impact Bargaining Proposals related to COVID-19 and Omar’s testimonial
Furthermore, NYU again declined to substantively respond to our contract bargaining proposals about the urgent financial and working needs of graduate students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Speaking to these needs, we had a testimonial from one of our members from the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Dept at Tandon School of Engineering, Omar Gowayed. He described how his work, and that of his colleagues, has been severely interrupted by the pandemic. Find here a similar testimonial he had generously provided to us early on in the pandemic, along with countless others.
GSOC’S Proposals and NYU’s Initial Reaction
The bulk of the meeting was taken up by members of GSOC’s bargaining committee presenting our new contract proposals (a brief summary can be found on the flyer below). These proposals were produced through a process of surveys, meetings, and discussions among grad workers over the past year. These proposals aim to simultaneously improve pay, conditions, and protections for all graduate workers, while also improving protections for those among us who face particular vulnerabilities, whether in the form of institutional racism and xenophobia, or family needs beyond their own. NYU did not substantively respond to most of our proposals in this session, though they did present an initial reaction, which we can summarize in a few bullet points:
- NYU intends to provide pay increases in the next contract.
- NYU repeated their past claim that some issues like class sizes and fellowships are solely academic issues and therefore outside the scope of our contract. We think this unacceptable takes urgent issues of working conditions and compensation off the table. Class sizes are part of our working conditions and stipends are part of our wages, because our research is part of our work. Going forward, we will be making the case that these issues are crucial to fulfilling the mission of the university and need to be guaranteed in our contract.NYU was surprised that we are making a bold proposal on expansion of our bargaining unit, to include workers in the Medical School as well as STEM RA’s, among others. They maintain that the bargaining unit should remain the same as it was at GSOC’s initial recognition agreement, while we know that these grad workers also need union representation.
- Workplace accommodations, according to NYU, are outside the scope of this bargaining too. Any worker who has a condition and wants accommodations should go through NYU’s Office of Equal Opportunity, and any non-medical accommodation should go through HR.
- We responded to this saying we are (among other things) asking for appointment letters to be provided before the start of a worker’s employment. This would then allow them to ask for accommodation.
- As the contract stands, workers can work up to 10 days before being given an appointment letter, which is the point at which they could contact OEO / HR and make their request for accommodation. NYU did not respond to this point.
- GSOC mentioned that there are cases of workers without PPE on campus, and NYU requested we provide more information on that. They claim to be providing masks to all workers, but we have had reports that some workers are not being provided with sufficient PPE.
After discussing NYU’s position, we moved to plan the next bargaining sessions. The next three sessions were proposed (but need to be confirmed by NYU):
- Wednesday July 29th, 1pm
- Wednesday August 12th, 1pm
- Wednesday August 26th, 1pm